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A viewpoint of Iranian ethnonyms: "Kurd", "Persian", "Iranian", Islam and Iranian civilization 
The current place of Iranian civilization. Ardeshir Shapuri 


Introduction 2 

On the terms Iran, Iranian, Persian, Kurd, Tajik, ' Ajam, Tat 3 

On the term Persian 3 

On the term Kurd 6 

Ajam, Tat, Tajik 10 

Ajam 10 

Tat 10 

Tajik 11 

Iranian (Arya) and Iran 11 

Religion, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Iranian culture and the wasteful and mindless wandering 

"Intellectuals" 15 

Religion in general with respect to Iranian civilization 16 

Conversions 17 

Iranian contribution to Islam 19 

Religion in the future 20 

Unity today for a Better Tomorrow 20 


This article is written due to the sad affair of Iranian-cultural world (2009) where division and 
animosity has brought stagnation, weakness, suffering and backwardness. 

What is the Iranian world? Just like the Arab world, the Iranian world is a place where Iranian 
languages, dialects and culture is prevalent. Thus this includes not only the political entities of 
Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, but also places where Zazaki, 
Ossetian, Kurdish, Dari-Persian, Talyshi and etc. are spoken in Turkey, Caucasus, and 
Uzbekistan. For example in Turkey, there are 15-20 million Kurmanj and Zazaki speakers who 
are Iranians. Or in Uzbekistan, non-official and Western sources put the number of Parsi-Dari 
speaking Tajiks at 30-40%. In Arran (Caucasus) and Sherwan there are still some Kurds, Talysh 
and Tats. 

One of the ways to bring division to the Iranian world is nation-building based upon dialects, 
languages and etc. Where-as everyone in the Arab world (with widely divergent dialects and 
languages) are called Arabs, in the Iranian world, terms such as "Persians", "Kurds", "Tajik" are 
being promoted while the underlying attachment of these terms to the greater Iranian civilization 
is being demoted. 

Unlike the Arab world which does not have a common history, the Iranian world does share a 
good deal of common history including Medes, Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanids and many 
post-Islamic dynasties (Buyids, Samanids, Safavids, Ghaznavids, Seljuqs (the latter three being 
Turkic or Turcophone but ruling mainly Iranic speaking langs)). Also it shares the same origin 
(Indo-Iranians) unlike the Arab world and the same mythology (exemplified in Avesta, 
Shahnameh and Shahnameh myths in various Iranic languages)). 

For example, we start with the term Persian. The term is increasing and misleadingly being used 
solely for the speakers of the Parsi-Dari language. However up to the 20 th century, such a usage 
was not common. Rather the term Persian in its general meaning simply meant Iranian. We are 
not concerned here with the Old Persian empire or Achaemenids. Old Persian today is a dead 
language. From a linguistic point of view, modern Dari-Persian is a continuation of Old Persian 
however this language was developed in Khorasan and Central Asia before coming back to Iran. 
However the term Persian since the ancient era and Islamic times became equivalent to Iranian 

as opposed to Turk or Arab. Just like today there are many different Chinese dialects and 
languages (Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese and etc.), however no one doubts the underlying 
unity of Chinese civilization. However, due to internal strife and external pressures, Iranian 
civilization has become somewhat fragmented and it is up to future Iranians to realize this and 
make efforts for unity while respecting internal diversity. 

On the terms Iran, Iranian, Persian, Kurd, Tajik, 'Ajam, Tat 
On the term Persian 

There have been several etymologies proposed for the term Persian. The most recent scholarship 

{It should not be amazing that several proposals concerning the etymology of Parsa have been 
put forward. In Hoffman's eye (1940: 142) the name is related to Old Indian Parsu-, the name of 
warrior tribe. Eilers (1954: 188: also Harmatta 1971c: 221-222) he uses Assyrian Parsua to 
prove Parsa -- evolved from *Parsva-. Again Eilers (1987:49) finds another Old Indian word to 
explain Parsa. This time it is "Parsu"-, "rib, sickle". More recently Skalmowski (1995:3 1 1) 
pointed out that Pars(u)a is the equivalent of Old Indian parsva, "the region of the ribs, 
immediate neighborhood" } 

Jan Tavernier, "Iranica in the Achamenid Period (c.a. 550-330 B.C.); lexicon of old Iranian 
proper names and loanwords, attested in non-Iranian texts. Volume 158 of Orientalia 
Lovaniensia Analecta. Peeters Publisher, 2007. Pg 28 

And the eminent Iranologist George Morgenstriene has shown that Parsa, Pahlu, Pashtu, Parthia 
and etc. are all cognates of the same word. 

See: Morgenstriene, George 1973: 'Pashto', 'Pathan' and the treatment of R + sibilant in 
Pashto,in: Indo-Dardica, Wiesbaden: Reichert, 168-174. 

The actual term Persian has been used for various Iranian groups and in the Islamic time, it 
generally meant Iranian. 

Here are some examples: 


The Arabian historian Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn Al-Masudi (896-956) also refers to 
various Persian dialects and the speakers of these various Persian dialects as Persian. While 
considering modern Persian (Dari) to be one of these dialects, he also mentions Pahlavi and Old 
Azari (An Iranian dialect of Azerbaijan before its linguistic Turkification and probably Talyshi is 
a modern descendant of that language), , as well as other Persian languages. Al-Masudi 
states:(Al Mas'udi, Kitab al-Tanbih wa-1-Ishraf, De Goeje, M.J. (ed.), Leiden, Brill, 1894, pp. 77- 

Original Arabic from ^ ^ J) uW^u^j ^j^j ^^^l t> <JW Ia^ ^ 3_J ^jilli 
^Aj j j^ '"^j (jLi.j^.j (jl_)jLiJlj LLuLallj {jLui^Azj ,_5 jllj i—jIjjV^j c_jLJ1 jAj ^j^ J] u J. j u'j'j ^J""J^ ^^ 
jX^Lc-V' (_yz i> £y* c^IIaj (_J*^ajl Lo a c \\ aAY' 9 ^ iLs 9 cl) ^)~J U ' L ^ ' L ^3 U O^ 1 ^^^ l) -0 ^^ J^*J J^) -0 ^ SI )A 9 t 3 ajl > nj'1 

jj-a JJ 1 nj *- ( _ s -tu ^ (jjjjbjj ljjl£ ii^jl Vj cli.lj IgjLuJj Ai.lj lilLo IfrSLa AM^a dljl£ jilJl oiA IjSj '"''j" liA ^ 
tali laJ dialli.1 (jjj 4ii.lj ■ Luu l^ijj^. ' „ "j ' ■ uSi ^^1 Igijj^. (jj£i (jb (jj£i Lojj Ailll (jl lilljj dlliijl 
(joijill illli] jj-a U jjij AjjJVIj 4jjlllj 4jjl$i]l£ jiVt S-LhVI JjLui j^." 


The Persians are a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azarbaijan up to Armenia 
and Arran, and Bayleqan and Darband, and Ray and Tabaristan and Masqat and Shabaran and 
Jorjan and Abarshahr, and that is Nishabur, and Herat and Marv and other places in land of 
Khorasan, and Sejistan and Kerman and Fars and Ahvaz...All these lands were once one 
kingdom with one sovereign and one language... although the language differed slightly. The 
language, however, is one, in that its letters are written the same way and used the same way in 
composition. There are, then, different languages such as Pahlavi, Dari, Azari, as well as other 
Persian languages. 


Khwarezmian language (an East Iranian language which is a close relative to the Avesta). For 
example, Abu Rayhan Biruni, a native speaker of the Eastern Iranian language Chorasmian 
mentions in his "Athar al-baqiyah 'an al-qurun al-xaliyah" that: "the people of Khwarizm, they 
are a branch of the Persian tree." 

Original Arabic of the quote: "o-o^ 1 ^j^ i> 'u~=c. IjjIS j] j 'jOjLj^ J* 1 ^ j"(pg 56) 

C) old Tabari language. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, the language used in the 
ancient Marzbannama (an important book of literature) was, in the words of the 13th-century 
historian and translator Sa'ad ad-Din Warawini: " the language of Tabaristan and old, original 
Persian (farsT-yi kadim-i bastan')". That is Sa'ad ad-Din Warawini has called the old Iranic 
dialect of Tabari as Old Persian. 

See: Kramers, J.H. "Marzban-nama. " Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. 
Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. 18 
November 2007 <> </ref> 
[[Old Azari language]] 

D)The old Iranic language of Tabriz (Tabriz became predominantly Turcophone only after the 
mass conversion of the city from Shafii Sunnism to 12 Imam Shi'ism in the Safavid era) , being 
an Iranian language during the time of Qatran Tabrizi (10 th century poet of Azarbaijan), was not 
the standard Khurasani Parsi-ye Dari. Qatran Tabrizi(l 1th century) has an interesting couplet 
mentioning this fact. 


The nightingale is on top of the flower like a minstrel who has lost her heart 

It bemoans sometimes in Parsi (Persian) and sometimes in Dari (Khurasani Persian) 


Mohammad- Amin Riahi. "Molehaazi darbaareyeh Zabaan-I Kohan Azerbaijan"(Some 
comments on the ancient language of Azerbaijan), 'Itilia'at Siyasi Magazine, volume 181-182. 
Also available at:*/ Azari726.pdf 


Laki language and Kurdish language speakers. 

Lady (Mary) Shiel in her observation of Persia during the Qajar era describes the Persian tribes 
and Koords/Laks identified themselves and were identified commonly as Old Persians. See: 
Shiel, Lady (Mary). Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia. London: John Murray, 1856. 
Zi0qSfHxoC&output=pdf&sig=ACfU3U2FxSM4IPAmAqXqmugwotcL6C8JpQ&source=gbs v 

(see pg 394) 


"The PERSIAN TRIBES. The tribes are divided into three races-Toorks, Leks, Arabs. The first 
are the invaders from Toorkistan, who, from time immemorial, have established themselves in 
Persia, and who still preserve their language. The Leks form the clans of genuine Persian blood, 
such as the Loors, BekhtiaTees, and &c. To them might be added the Koords, as members of the 
Persian family; but their numbers in the dominions of the Shah are comparatively few, the 
greater part of that widely- spread people being attached to Turkey. Collectively the Koords are 
so numerous that they might be regarded as a nation divided into distinct tribes. Who are the 
Leks, and who are the Koords? This inquiry I cannot solve. I never met any one in Persia, either 
eel (means tribe) or moolla (means religious scholar), who could give the least elucidation of this 
question. All they could say was, that both these races were Foors e kadeem, — old Persians. 
They both speak dialects the greater part of which is Persian, bearing a strong resemblance to the 
colloquial language of the present day, divested of its large Arabic mixture. These dialects are 
not perfectly alike, though it is said that Leks and Koords are able to comprehend each other. 
One would be disposed to consider them as belonging to the same stock, did they not both 
disavow the connection. A Lek will- admit that a Koord, like himself, is an "old Persian," but he 
denies that the families are identical, and a Koord views the question in the same light. 


Ibn Battuta, visiting Kabul in 1333 writes: "We travelled to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site 
of which Is now occupied by a tribe of Persians called Afghans" 

Nancy Hatch Dupree at American University of Afghanistan - The Story of Kabul (Mongols 


Thus the term was used by travelers for Pashtuns who are a major Iranian ethno-linguistic group. 

On the term Kurd 


Martin van Bruinessen, "The ethnic identity of the Kurds", in: Ethnic groups in the Republic of 
Turkey, compiled and edited by Peter Alford Andrews with Rudiger Benninghaus [=Beihefte 
zum Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B, Nr.60]. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwich Reichert, 
1989, pp. 613-21. excerpt: "The ethnic label "Kurd" is first encountered in Arabic sources from 
the first centuries of the Islamic era; it seemed to refer to a specific variety of pastoral nomadism, 
and possibly to a set of political units, rather than to a linguistic group: once or twice, "Arabic 
Kurds" are mentioned. By the 10th century, the term appears to denote nomadic and/or 
transhumant groups speaking an Iranian language and mainly inhabiting the mountainous areas 
to the South of Lake Van and Lake Urmia, with some offshoots in the Caucasus... If there was a 
Kurdish speaking subjected peasantry at that time, the term was not yet used to include them." 


Wladimir Iwanov:"The term Kurd in the middle ages was applied to all nomads of Iranian 
origin ".(Wladimir Ivanon, "The Gabrdi dialect spoken by the Zoroastrians of Persia", Published 
by G. Bardim 1940. pg 42) 


V. Minorsky, Encyclopedia of Islam: "We thus find that about the period of the Arab conquest a 
single ethnic term Kurd (plur. Akrad ) was beginning to be applied to an amalgamation of 
Iranian or iranicised tribes., "Kurds" in Encyclopaedia of Islam". Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. 
Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online, accessed 


David Mackenzie: "If we take a leap forward to the Arab conquest we find that the name Kurd 
has taken a new meaning becoming practically synonmous with 'nomad', if nothing more 
pejorative" D.N. Mackenzie, "The Origin of Kurdish", Transactions of Philological Society, 
1961, pp 68-86 


John Limbert, The Origins and Appearance of the Kurds in Pre-Islamic Iran, Iranian Studies, 
Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1968. excerpt: 

{The "Kurds" of Fars 

The Arab and Persian historians who wrote during the early centuries of Islam frequently 
mentioned Kurds living outside of 

Kurdestan, especially in Fars. According to these histories, the Kurds had lived in many places 
outside of Kurdestan in Sassanian 

times. The historians Mas'udi and Istakhri, writing in the middle of the tenth century A. D., tell 
of Kurds living in Kerman, Sistan, 

Khorasan, and Fars as wel 1 as in Kurdestan proper. Rashid Yasami believes that the Kurds' 
original home was Fars. He cites as evidence the Persian historian Beihaqi (c. 1000 A.D.). 

Each reason and area has something associated with it: the wise men of 

Greece, the painters of China.. .and the Kurds (akrad) of Fars. 

According to Yasami, not only were the Kurds of Fars a major support of Sassanian power, but 
Ardashir I, the founder of the empire, was himself a Kurd. He says that Sasan, Ardashir's 
grandfather, married Ram Behesht of the Bazanjan Kurds, who, according to istakhri, were one 
of the five Kurdish tribes of Fars. Their son Pgpak took advantage of his Kurdish connections 
and sent his son Ardashir as governor to Darabgerd (Darab), which was the center of the 
Chupanan, or Shab5nk5reh, the large federation of tribes to which the Banzanjan belonged and 
who had been Sasan's original protectors. These same Kurds of Fars now became Ardashir's 
supporters in his revolt against Ardavan V, the Arsacid ruler. After Ardashir had proclaimed 
himself king of kings, Ardavan wrote an insulting letter to him which called attention to 
Ardashir's Kurdish ancestry. 

You've bitten off more than you can chew and you have brought death to yourself. son 
of a Kurd, raised in the tents of the Kurds, who gave you permission to put a crown on 
your head? 

However, not all Kurds supported Ardashir. Both the Shahnameh and the Karnamak-e- Ardashir 
tell of Ardashir's defeat by and eventual conquest of the Kurds. In the Shahnameh account 
Ardashir wars with the Kurds before subduing the neighboring areas of Kerman and S.istan— 
therefore the reference is probably to the Kurds of Fars. But in the Karnamak account Ardashir 
makes war on the Kurds of the land of Masi, which the translator and editor, Sadeq Hedayat, 
interprets as Madi, an area in Kurdestan. 

Although it is possible that the Kurds of Fars are related to the tribes of Kurdestan, it is more 
likely that the groups are distinct and that the tribes of Fars are not true Kurds, but Iranian tribes 
speaking southwest Iranian dialects, perhaps related to mDdern Luri. Such southwest dialects as 
Luri and Bakhtiari are much more closely related to Persian than to Kurdish. If we reconstruct 
the ancient linguistic division, then the Kurds of the north spoke a language related to Median— 
that is, northwest Iranian, and the "Kurds" of the south spoke a language related to Persian, or 

southwest Iranian. Of course it is impossible to prove that the tribes of Fars were not true Kurds; 
they might have been. But before the beginning of the twentieth century, no basic distinction was 
recognized between Kurdish and Luri.8 Only recently have these two languages been found to 
follow the N.W.-S.W. or Mede-Persian division. Furthermore, there is simply no trace of 
Kurdish speakers at presetn either in Fars or on its borders. One of istakhri's five Kurdish tribes 
of Fars is the Jiloya; at present there is a Lur tribe in the same area with the name Kuh-Giluyeh, 
whose origin and whose time of coming to Fars are unknown. Most conclusive of all is the fact 
that Kurd in the older Persian or Arab sense meant simply nomad with no particularethnic 
connotations. In this case, Ardavan V's letter becomes more insulting, since in effect he is calling 
Ardashir an ignorant nomad. The term was not even restricted to Iranian nomads — according to a 
tenth century work, the Persians called the Mesopotamian Arabs the "Kurds of Suristan." Thus it 
is reasonable (but hardly certain) that the so-called Kurds of Fars of Sassanian times were not 
true Kurds at all , but were Iranian nomads speaking dialects related to Persian. } 


According to Vladimir Minorsky: 

"The vague and indiscriminate use of the term Kurd goes back to early times. According to 
Hamza Isfahani (circa 350/961), ed, . Berlin, 151, "The Persians used to call the Daylamites ' 
The Kurds of Tabaristan', as they used to call Arabs 'the Kurds of Suristan', i.e. of 'Iraq". Other 
Arab and Persian authors of the tenth century A.D. mean by Kurd any Iranian nomads of 
Western Persia, such as the tent dwellers of Fars. 

The famous historian of the Kurdish nation Sharaf Khan states in his Annals, p. 13, that there are 
four division of Kurds: Kurmanj, Lur, Kalhur, and Guran. This enumeration gives a clear idea of 
the main groups of the Iranian mountaineers, but only the Kurmanj, and possibly Kalhur, come 
under the heading Kurd, whereas the Lur and Guran stand apart, both for linguistic and 
ethnological reasons" 


"The Guran", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume, XI, 1943-1946, 
PP. 75-103. 


Richard Frye,"The Golden age of Persia", Phoneix Press, 1975. Second Impression December 
2003. pp 111: "Tribes always have been a feature of Persian history, but the sources are 
extremly scant in reference to them sincethey did not 'make' history. The general designation 
'Kurd' is found in many Arabic sources, as well as in Pahlavi book on the deeds of Ardashir the 
first Sassanian ruler, for all nomads no matter whether they were linguistically connected to the 

Kurds of today or not. The population of Luristan, for example, was considered to be Kurdish, 
as were tribes in Kuhistan and Baluchis in Kirman" 

So in conclusion the term Kurds denoted Iranian groups who lived a particular lifestyle. 

Ajam, Tat, Tajik 


The term Ajam at first meant non-Arab in the Arabic language, but due to large interactions between 
Iranians and Arabs, the term became synonymous with Iranian. However after the formation of the 
Safavid empire, the term came to take a more geographic meaning and the Ottomans called all the 
inhabitants of the Safavid empire as Ajam. 

Interestingly enough, the Sunni Kurdish population calls the Azeri population, Kurdish population of 
Southern Iran and also all other Iranian speaking Shi'ites as 'Ajam. 

See: Mahmood Reza Ghods, A comparative historical study of the causes, development and effects of 
the revolutionary movements in northern Iran in 1920-21 and 1945-46. University of Denver, 1988. v.l, 


See also: Encyclopedia Iranica, "Ajam", Bosworth 

In Persian poetry, the term 'Ajam has been used as a self-designation for Iranians by Iranians, but it 
never gained wide popularity as Iranian. However Iranian poets such as Khaqani Sherwani are called 
"Hessan al-Ajam" (the Persian Hessan, where Hessan was a famous Arab poet before Islam). 

Thus we can say the term Ajam was used by Arabs at first for all non-Arabs. During the Islamic era, it 
came to be a designation of Iranians in general by the Arabs. Eventually some Iranians adopted this 
name and the term Ajam took a geographical role. During the Ottoman-Safavid era, the term Ajam due 
to its geographical role also took a religious definition. That is why Sunni Kurmanji speakers refer to 
Azerbaijani Turkic speakers as 'Ajam but do not use this for the Sunni Turkic speakers of Turkey. Today, 
the term is used by Arabs in Khuzestan and Iraq to refer to all Iranian speakers of the area. Also Iranians 
in Bahrain use this as a self-designation. 


The term Tat was used by Turks for Iranians just like the term Ajam was used by Arabs. Primarily, the 
Turks came into contact with speakers of Chorasmian, Soghdian and Dari-Persian and these are referred 
to as Tat in Turkish. One theory is that the word "Tat" means settled since the Turks were mainly 

nomadic. Today the term Tat is used as a self-designation for some Iranians in the Caucasus as well as 
Iranian speakers that live in East Azerbaijan province, Zanjan, and Western Azerbaijan. Also in Northern 
Khorasan as well. These dialects are not exactly the same, however the self-designation Tat came due 
to contact with Turkic speakers. 

In the Dehkhoda dictionary, which referenced the Qamus-i Turki by Shams al-Din Sami, the Turkish 
author states: "The Turks called all Iranians (he means it as Persian speakers) and Kurds under their 
control as Tats". 

Thus the designation Tat was used for Sogdians first and then other people that Turks came into contact 
with. Today isolated pockets of Iranian peoples with various Iranian dialects who live in close proximity 
to Turkish speakers have adopted the name Tat as a self-designation. 


Svatopluk Soucek, "A history of inner Asia",Cambridge University Press, 2000. pg 32:"The origin and 
history of the ethnonym Tajik goes back to the name of an Arab tribe, Tayy, who lived in the Iraqi 
confines of the last pre-lslamic Persian empire, that of the Sassanians. The Persians extended this name 
to Arabs in general, and the Sogdians followed their example. After the conquest of Central Asia by 
Muslims, not only Arabs but also increasing number of Persians and Sogdians professed the new 
religion, and all of these came to be compromised under the ethnonym "Tajik". Eventually the Persian- 
speaking converts outnumbered the Arabs, and the ethnonym which had been the name of an Arab 
tribe ended up being reserved for Persian-speaking Muslims of Central Asia and their language" 

Today the name Tajik is used as a self-designation for speakers of Dari-Persian, Yaghnobi, Rushni, 
Wakhni and several other Eastern Iranian languages. The Iranian speakers of China who also speak East 
Iranian also refer to themselves as Tajik. It is likely again that due to contact with the Turkic population, 
the Iranians were called Tajiks and eventually they adopted this name in that area. 

Iranian (Arya) and Iran 

The term Arya has been used as self designation for Medes, Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, 
Sogdians and etc. We provide some examples here: 


"the Medes were called anciently by all people Aryan" (Herodous, 7.62) 


The term ' Ariya" appears in the royal inscriptions in three different context: As the name of the 
language of the Old Persian version of the inscription of Darius the Great in Behistun; as the 
ethnic background of Darius in inscriptions at Naqsh-e-Rostam and Susa (Dna, Dse) and Xerxes 
in the inscription from Persepolis (Xph) and as the definition of the God of Arya people, 

Ahuramazda, in the Elamite version of the Behistun inscription. For example in the Dna and Dse 
Darius and Xerxes describe themselves as "An Achaemenian, A Persian son of a Persian and an 
Aryan, of Aryan stock". 

See Arya, and Aryan in Encyclopedia Iranica for further information. 

Note that first they describe their clan (Achaemenid) and then tribe/group (Persian) and then 
their ethnicity Arya. So here we have good references that both the Medes and Persians referred 
to themselves as Aryans. The Medes and Persians were people of western Iranian stock. Western 
Iranian languages and dialects including Kurdish, Persian, Baluchi have their roots in the Old 
Persian and Median languages and are prevalent languages of Iran today. 


The OP inscriptions date back approximately to 400-500 B.C. Concurrently, or even prior to Old 
Persian, the word Airya is abundant used in the Avesta and related Zoroastrian literature whose 
origin lies with the eastern Iranian people. 

The Avestan airya always has an ethnic value. It appears in Yasht literature and in the 
Wideewdaad. The land of Aryans is described as Airyana Vaejah in Avesta and in the Pahlavi 
inscription as Eran-wez. The Avesta archer Arash (Arash-e-Kamangir) is called the hero of Airya 
people. Zoroaster himself is described from the Airya people. The examples of the ethnic name 
of Airya in Avesta are too many to enumerate here and the interested reader is referred to the 
following site: 


The ostraca (an inscribed potsherd) from Parthian Nisa time period (approx. 2100 years ago) 
provides us with numerous Parthian names related. Parthian, like Persian, is a Western Iranian 
language. Some of the names of the people at that time that begin with prefix Arya are given by: 

Aryabaam-Aryabaanuk, Aryabarzan- Aryabozhan- Aryaxshahrak- Aryanistak- Aryafriyaanak- 
Aryasaaxt- Aryazan 

The etymology of such names is fairly known. For the attestation of these names see: 

Parthian Economic Documents from Nisa (1976-1980) 

In: MacKenzie, D. N. (ed.), Corpus inscriptionum Iranicarum, Pt 2. Inscriptions of the Seleucid 
and Parthian periods and of Eastern Iran and Central Asia. v. 2. Parthian London: P. Lund, 
Humphries, 1976 


Pt. 2. Inscriptions of the Seleucid and Parthian periods and of Eastern Iran and Central Asia. 

- v. 2. Parthian. 

[no. 1] Parthian economic documents from Nisa: Plates I (123 b/w plates, 1976). 

[no. 2] Parthian economic documents from Nisa: Plates II (124-330 = 206 b/w plates, 1977). 

[no. 3] Parthian economic documents from Nisa: Plates III (1979). 

[no. 4] Parthian economic documents from Nisa: Texts I (1977). 


Moses of Khorenat'si the Armenian historian of 5th century A.D. also denotes the Parthians, 
Medes and Persians collectively as Aryans. So ancient neighboring people have consistently 
referred to Iranians as Aryans. Both Armenian and Greeks are Indo-Europeans but only Indo- 
Iranians have been known as Aryans throughout history. 

R.W. Thomson. History of Armenians by Moses Khorenat'si. Harvard University Press, 1978. 


Ardeshir the first, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, on the coins minted during his era 
describes himself as "Shahan shah Aryan" (Iran). Where Aryan exactly means the "land of the 
Arya" which is synonymous with land of Iranians. His son Shapur, whose triumphs over his 
enemies are the stuff of legends minted coins with the inscription: "Shahan shah aryan ud 
anaryan" (The king of Kings of Iran and Non-Iran). The reason for anaryan is that he expanded 
the empire beyond the Aryan lands. 

The trilingual inscription erected by his command gives us a more clear description. The 
languages used are Parthian, Middle Persian and Greek. In Greek the inscription says: "ego ... 
tou Arianon ethnous despotes eimi" which translates to "I am the king of the Aryans". In the 
Middle Persian Shapour says: "I am the Lord of the EranShahr" and in Parthian he says: "I am 
the Lord of AryanShahr". Both AryanShahr/EranShahr here denote the country of Iran. 


The Bactrian inscription of Kanishka the founder of the Kushan empire at Rabatak, which was 
discovered in 1993 in an unexcavated site in the Afghanistan province of Baghlan clearly refers 
to this Eastern Iranian language as Arya. Interestingly enough, Bactrian (approximate area 
surrounding modern Balkh) was written using Greek alphabets. 

What is interesting is that both Dariush the Great and Kanishka refer to the Iranian language as 
the "Aryan" language. One is in Old Persian and the other is an eastern Iranian language called 


N. Sims-Williams. "Further notes on the Bactrian inscription of Rabatak, with an Appendix on 
the names of Kujula Kadphises and Vima Taktu in Chinese" Proceedings of the Third European 
Conference of Iranian Studies (Cambridge, September 1995), Part 1: Old and Middle Iranian 
Studies, N. Sim- Williams, ed. Wiesbaden, pp. 79-92. 


The Alans 

See V.I. Abev, the "Alans" in Encyclopedia Iranica 

"The name "Alan" is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, "Aryan," and so is cognate with "Iran" 
(from the gen. plur. *arydndm)" 


Strabo in his Geography mentions the affinity of various Iranian/Aryan groups: 

"The name of Ariana is further extended to a part of Persia and of Media, as also to the Bacrtians 
and Sogdians on the north; for these speak approximately the same language, with but slight 
variation. (Geography, 15.8) 

This is probably the oldest attestation to the name Iran (Ariana) mentioned by Strabo, a Greek 
historian living in the first century B.C.. Probably the name was used even before this, but 
Strabo gives us the first attestation as a concrete land outside of the Avesta. 

We can see the name Iran/Arya, Iranshahr/Aryashahr used in Middle Persian (Sassanid 
inscriptions). After Islam, the name Iran has been continuously in use. For example Rudaki, 
Ferdowsi, Nezami Ganjavi, Hakim Meysari, Khaqani, Qatran, Hamdullah Mostowfi, Tarikh-i 
Sistan, Yaqut, and etc. all have used this. 


Matini, J. (1992). Fran dar gozasht-e ruzegaaran [Iran in the Passage of Times], Majalle-ye Fran- 
shenasi [Pranshenasi: A Journal of Iranian Studies] 4(2): 

Hamza Isfahani ties the name Arya and Persia together in one sentence: 

"Arian which is also Persia is situation in the middle of these six countries and these six 
countries form its borders. Its SE is China, its North is bordered by the lands of Turk, Its 
Southern Middle borders India, Its Northern Middle borders Byzantium, its SW borders Africa 
and its NW is is in the hand of Berbers" 


Hamza Isfahani, Tarikh Payaambaraan o Shaahaan, translated by Jaf ar Shu'ar,Tehran: 
Intishaaraat Amir Kabir, 1988. 

And in old Gurani literature, the name Iran is mentioned: 

Aw Watay yaran, aw watay yaran 

ema dewanayan aw watay yaran 

ham magellln yak yaki sharan 

ta zlnda karlm ami eran 

Based on the saying of dear friends 

We should act in a way that does give us away (crazy) 

So that we may go out one by one in the cities 

So that way may rekindle the faith of Iran 

See. Sadiq Safizadeh, "Doreh Bohlul", Khuseh, 1363 (Solar Hejri Calendar). 

The name is also mentioned many times in the Leki Shahnameh which was recently produced by 
Dr. Izadpanah. 

Religion, Islam, Zoroastrianism and Iranian culture and the wasteful and 
mindless wandering "Intellectuals" 

Our intention here is to write very little about this complex problem. But recently, there has 
been some "intellectuals" who are doing a disfavor to Iranian civilization but trying to dissect its 
various aspects and set them against each other. Mainly, these "intellectuals" try to disown the 
pre-Islamic or post-Islamic aspects of Iranian civilization. We will focus on four important 
points: 1) Religion in general with respect to Iranian civilization. 2) Was Zoroastrianism or 
Islam forceful or by peaceful conversion or both? 3) Iranian contribution to Islamic civilization 
as a source of pride. 4) Future of religion in general 

Religion in general with respect to Iranian civilization. 

One of the oldest form of religious manifestation in Iranian culture is the inscription of Darius 
the Great. It is very likely that these lines up to the point where Darius is named are not the 
words of Darius I himself but rather taken from Zoroastrian religious hymns of his own time. 
The inscription states: 

A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, 
who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many. 

Thus monotheism was part of Iranian civilization at least 2500 years ago. Overall, the belief of 
one God who is the creator has been the prevalent core of Iranian civilization and one of its most 
important pillars. That is many aspects of Iranian thought specially up to the modern secular are 
governed by the fact that there is one God who is the created, who created man, who created 
happiness for man, who placed him on Earth in order so that he may know God. 

Thus the most important function of the messengers (Zoroaster or Muhammad or Jesus or 
Abraham) is to teach about one God. The second most important aspect of religion is to teach 
man about respecting the rights of others and by respecting the rights of others, man is able to 
find salvation. With this respect, both Islam and Zoroastrianism are divine religions ordained by 
God and the most important aspect, which is belief in one God, the golden rule and honesty, 
integrity, purity, helping others and etc. are shared by both. Of course both Islam and 
Zoroastrianism developed many sects with many different beliefs and etc. But what we have 
described is the essential core. The belief in one God who is the creator is the essential core. 

As per evil, various theories developed in Islamic and Zoroastrianism sects. But we should note 
that Humans within themselves have both a divine aspect and an animalistic aspect. If the 
animalistic aspects takes control, then humans become no different than primates. However if 
through the will of the intellect and divine favors, Man is able to overcome his animalistic 
desires (part of it which is respect the rights of his fellow man), then he has guaranteed himself 
salvation. With this regard, evil stems from the lack of Good and from not following the 
principles set down by the divine religions. 

So in essence, real religion in general and also with respect to Iranian civilization is: 1) Belief in 
one God. 2) respecting the rights of fellow human beings through various social conventions and 
laws. It should be noted some of the external forms of these social conventions and laws were 
brought for their own time and they will need reinterpretation to adjust them for modern times. 
3) overcoming the animalistic nature within ourselves. 

Of course thousands of pages have been written on this subject, but our aim was to show that in 
their essence, there is no real difference between say Zoroastrianism, Islam , Christianity or 
Judaism as the core principles are the same and famous Iranian mystics have already reached this 


With regards to conversions of Iranian peoples to Zoroastrianism or Islam, one cannot say that it 
was purely peaceful or purely through force. For example: 

In Zoroastrianism, the king Vishtasp converted peacefully, however the wars with the other 
Iranian tribes in early Zoroastrian lore is an aspect of religious difference. 

Xerxes in the Old Persian inscription state: 

"And among these countries there was (a place) where previously false gods [[Daevas]] were 
worshipped. Afterwards, by the favor of Ahuramazda, I destroyed that sanctuary of the demons, and I 
made proclamation, "The demons shall not be worshipped!" Where previously the demons were 
worshipped, there I worshipped Ahuramazda and Arta [[Asha]] reverent(ly)." 

The priest Kartir in the Kabayeh Zardosht inscription states: 


"And in kingdom after kingdom and place after place throughout the whole empire the services of 
Ahura Mazda and the Yazads became preeminent, and great dignity came to the Mazdayasnian religion 
and the magi in the empire, and the Yazads and water and fire and small cattle in the empire attained 
great satisfaction, while Ahriman and the devs were punished and rebuked, and the teachings of 
Ahriman and the devs departed from the empire and were abandoned. And Jews, Sramans (Buddhists), 
(10) Brahmins, Nasoreans (Orthodox Christians), (Gnostic) Christians, Maktak (Baptisers), and Zandiks 
(Manichaeans) in the empire were smitten, and destruction of idols and scattering of the stores of the 
devs and god-seats and nests was abandoned." 

Thus one has to admit that an unbiased viewpoint is that Zoroastrianism as a religion came 
through both peaceful conversions (as the example of Zoroaster and Vishtasp' s court) as well as 
through the expansion (often forceful) of Zoroastrian Kings and monarchs. 

The issue is somewhat covered by Elton Daniel here: 


"The process of converting Iranians to Islam commenced in Arabia itself, where numerous people 
ofPersian origin were resident, probably as a consequence of Sasanian involvement in Yemen. TabarT (I, 
pp. 1778-81) gave the names of several individuals said to be of Persian ancestry among the freedmen 
(mawall) of the Prophet Mohammad. According to tradition, the first and most important of them was 
Salman FarsT, who became the prototype of Persian converts and the symbol of the role that Persia and 
Persians would play in the future of Islam." 


"It is difficult to be precise about the motives or forces that facilitated the conversion of the Iranian 
population to Islam. The notion that coercion was a significant factor in producing conversions to Islam 
has been generally discredited (Arnold, p. 5). Virtually all the purported texts of treaties with conquered 
Persian cities contain guarantees of protection for the existing religious communities and for the free 
exercise of their customary religions (e.g., TabarT, I, pp. 2641, 2655-62). There may, however, have been 
sporadic use of force, not so much to compel conversions as to weaken the hold of Zoroastrianism over 
the population. For example, both Muslim and non-Muslim authors alluded to the execution of 
Zoroastrian priests, the destruction of fire temples, and the burning of Zoroastrian texts in K v arazm 
(BaladorT, Fotuh, p. 421; BTrunT, Atar, p. 35); orders for similar actions were sent to STstan but apparently 
were not implemented (TarTk-e STstan, pp. 92-94). As the Zoroastrian establishment had already been 
weakened by popular discontent as manifested in Mazdakite upheavals and the spread of Christianity 
and Buddhism in the late Sasanian period, even limited Muslim attacks on the clergy and temples may 
have helped to create a religious vacuum, which Islam gradually filled. It is also likely that many of the 
men, women, and children taken captive during the wars of conquest converted under a certain amount 
of duress or at least an implied threat of force; the best example is the story of the Persian commander 
Hormozan's conversion to avoid execution (TabarT, I, p. 2560). In any case, social and economic 
considerations were much more important than coercion in producing significant numbers of 

So what can we say? During the time of the Prophet Muhammad, there were Iranians who 
converted voluntarily in Islam. It should be noted that history has shown all the wars of the 
Prophet Muhammad were defensive in nature. That is it was the pagan Arabs who attacked the 
Muslims first. At the time of Umar, Muslim armies expanded and even defeated China in 
Central Asia, defeated the Byzantium empire and also defeated Sassanid Iran. 

However several important things should be noted: 

1) Most of the Sassanid royal family who fled to China according to the records had already 
converted to Nestorian Christianity and a noticeable part of the Iranian population were 
not necessarily practicioners of various sects of Zoroastrianism. 

2) Before the incursion of the Arab armies into Persia, there were peaceful converts to 

3) The Arab invaders (due to their own culture) were brutal in many respects (like most 
conquerors anywhere). However, the conversion of Iranians to Islam was not overnight. 
As an example: "However, in some regions, such as Fars province, a Sasanian center of the 
faith, there remained a large number of Zoroastrians (see Moqaddasi, p. 429), so that Abu Eshaq 
Kazaruni (q.v.; b. 963), the eponymous founder of the Kazaruniya order of Sufis, could claim, 
according to a well-known and extensive hagiographical account of him, to have brought about 
mass conversions of Zoroastrians in Fars in the late 10th century (see Yavari, pp. 242-43)." 
es/unicode/v 1 3f3/v 1 3f300 1 a.html 

Encyclopedia Iranica, "Iran in the Islamic Period (651-1980s)", E. Yarshater. 

Thus we can say that both Zoroastrianism and Islam became dominant religions through a 
variety of means. The idea that Iranians were forced to accept Islam by the absolute sword 
however does not fit with reality of historical sources. A study of conversion to various other 
religions (say Christianity in Europe, Anatolia, American continent) and etc. should yield the 
same mixed picture. 

Iranian contribution to Islam 

Ibn Khaldun, the Arabic historians writes: 

It is a remarkable fact that, with few exceptions, most Muslim scholars both in the religious and 
intellectual sciences have been non-Arabs ... Thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and, after 
him, al-Farisi and az-Zajjaj. All of whom were of Iranian descent. They were brought up in the Arabic 
language and acquired knowledge of it through their upbringing and through contact with Arabs. They 
invented the rules [of grammar] and made it into a discipline for later generations. Most of the hadith 
scholars, who preserved traditions of the Prophet for the Muslims also were Persians, or Persian in 
language and breeding because the discipline was widely cultivated in Iraq and regions beyond. 
Furthermore, all the great jurists were Iranians, as is well-known. The same applies to speculative 
theologians and to most of the Qu'ran commentators. Only the Iranians engaged in the task of 
preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the 
Prophet becomes apparent, If learning were suspended at the highest parts of heaven the Persians 
would attain it... This situation continued in the cities as long as the Iranian and Iranian countries, the 
'Iraq, Khurasan, and Transoxiana, retained their sedentary culture. 

Quoted in "The Golden age of Persi"a by Richard N. Frye, Professor of Iranian, Harvard university 
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1975 Professor Richard (Emeritus) was a Professor of Iranian and 
Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University, pp. 161-162. Quote: "The remarks of Ibn Khaldun are not 
in dispute". The Muqaddimah By Ibn Khaldun translated by Franz Rosenthal, N. J. Dawood,Published by 
Princeton University Press, 1969. pp. 429-430. 

Thus when Islam came to Iran, Iranians adopted many aspect of it to their own culture. Furthermore, 
one can consider Khorasanian Sufism as an Aryan interpretation of Islam. 

In short there is no disharmony between Iranian concept Islam and Iranian civilization and "intellectuals" 
who waste time in trying to disassociate the two are actually erasing a major portion of Iranian 
civilization's contribution. As shown below, with the modern era and internet age, religion itself is going 
to lose many of its traditional features and the main point (from this author's perspective) is that 
Iranians should always be aware of God and communicate with him in whatever form or fashion they 

Religion in the future 

With the advent of the modern style, we can probably expect that religion as a whole will be 
transformed. That is many of its ritualistic aspects will eventually disappear and one will probably see 
more concentration on the creator rather than religion itself. The main concentration will still remain 
the same, which is Man's understanding of his creator and his place in the universe. So religious 
fanaticisms will probably not have a future in the long term as the two essential points are realized: 1) 
All divine religions have the divine mission of making man aware of his creator. 2) The laws setup by 
prophet (even if some were for their age) are meant to protect the rights of human beings and progress 
their souls. 

From the perspective of this article, both Islam (and specially Sufism) and Zoroastrianism have 
left their marks on Iranian civilization however in the long term future, religion will probably 
lose many of its exoteric aspects and its essential point which are of the main concern will come 
to the forefront: 1) belief in one God. 2) the destiny of the soul 3) protecting and respecting the 
rights of fellow human beings. We can expect these issues to take more rational approaches (as 
possible) as civilization as a whole moves towards rational thinking. 

Unity today for a Better Tomorrow 

Today what we can consider the Iranian civilization of humanity has some internal and external 
problems. We do not need to enumerate the internal problems but a major one is that of the clash 
with modernity which still has not been solved. That is while Iranian civilization needs to keep 

its moral behavior (derived from divine religions), it also needs to harmonize aspects of modern 
Western civilization which are compatible with its own culture, while at the same time not 
accepting those that are not. As per external pressures, we can for example note the situation of 
Iranian minorities in various countries who are oppressed as a whole due to ultra-nationalism 
being the form of government in those countries (say in Turkey or Uzbekistan or the situation of 
minorities such as Talysh or Kurds in Arran and Sherwan). 

As per the terms Persian, Kurd, Iranian, Ajam, Tat and etc. All of these show that the term 
Iranian is the most authentic and encompassing term for all Iranian groups. It covers basically 
all Iranian speakers : Eastern and Western in both antiquity and also today. Other terms like 
Persian, Kurd and etc. have denoted various groups at various times and to confine these terms to 
a section of Iranian people today seems to be a very recent phenomenon (20 th century) and does 
not have any historical basis. For example, if Tabari is called Old Persian, or Lak and Kurds are 
called Old Persians, or Khwarizmian language is called Persian, then one cannot just confine this 
term for speakers of one Iranian language: Dari-Persian. Similarly is the term Kurd, which has 
been used for variety of Iranian languages like Daylamites (probable ancestors of today's Zaza 
speakers), Baluchs, Laks, Lurs, Sorani speakers, Kurmanji speakers, and etc. In reality, in the 
Islamic Medieval ages, this term was used for all Iranian nomads and semi-nomads. Today we 
can see that the Arabs despite having dialects which are not mutually intelligible or the Chinese 
having dialects that are not mutually intelligible are considered one civilization. Even though the 
case of the Arabs are weak, the case of the Chinese is strong and numerous dialects do not hinder 
the way. With this regard, all Iranian peoples and groups are part of the same civilization despite 
the diversity that has come through various internal and external contacts and isolations. There 
are various unions and major countries such as China, India, European Unions, United States, 
Russia and etc. are making headway for the future. If Iranian peoples who belong to the Iranian 
civilization also work together and unite (and note we showed various labels that are used today 
did not denote a single Iranian dialect or language), it is this author's opinion that they can also 
be a major factor in ensuring the progress of humanity. That is an Europen Union or a United 
State model can work well that will protect both Iranian civilization externally while also 
respecting internal diversity. Such union can also make Iranian civilization a powerhouse for the 
21th century so that it will not be dominated by various powers or even neighbors. 

However if Iranians become divided and fragmented, then various neighbors or groups will 
impose their hegemony as they have done in the past. Also the efforts that try to dissect various 
aspects Iranian civilizations instead of embracing it not only generate a waste of time, but also in 
the end accomplishes nothing. That is why we stated clearly that both the Islamic, Zoroastrian 
aspects of Iranian civilization needs to be embraced while at the same time, a concordance 
between Iranian civilization and positive aspects of Western civilization should be harmonized. 

Current Situation 

The current situation shows that Kurmanj Iranians, Zaza Iranians, Talysh Iranians, Tajik 
Iranians are being oppressed by various pan-Turkist governments (Turkey, Arran (republic of 
Azerbaijan), Uzbekistan). Also the countries of Turkey and Azerbaijan are posing a existential 
threat to Armenia and Armenians. Despite the Armenian genocide (we should note that constant 
nomadic invasions by Turks brought much destruction to Iranian peoples for example most of 
the Mongol Troops were of Turkic origins and eventually after the Mongol invasion places like 
Chorasmia, Aran, Azerbaijan, Sogdiana lost much of their Iranian population), the country 
Armenia and Armenian culture has managed to survive but its land has been significantly 
reduced. So in a way we should considers Armenians as part of the Iranian world as they not 
only have a significant Iranian influence but also their interests lies with that of the Iranian 
world. Lands of Armenia/Kurdistan also historically overlap and belong to both Armenians and 
Kurds. The past prejudices must be removed in order for Iranians and Iranian-orient nations like 
Armenia to cooperate. Given the current challenge that pan-Turkism is trying to pose to Iranian 
national unity, it might be prudent that once there is a national Iranian governments, Iran (the 
current entity), Kurds, Armenians sit at one side of the table and negotiate with pan-Turkist 
regimes for land exchanges. For example the Kurdistan of Turkey or parts of historical Armenia 
can be exchanged for places in current Iran that might tend to pan-Turkism and Turkish 
nationalism. This way by defining a clear border between Iranians(Armenians too) and the 
Turks, an Iranian union can prosper without any internal threat. The same can be said of Turks 
who would be happy to change their Kurds for pan-Turkic orient people (for example some 
Turcophones in Iran who have turned their back on their Iranian heritage) that live in Iran. But 
only through unity of all Iranians/ Armenians can Iran/ Armenia gain their rights. Also if the 
Turkic entities continue to pose a threat to Irani an/ Armenian interests, Iran/ Armenia have other 
allies like China, Russia and etc. who do not think highly of pan-Turkism. Also this call for 
Iranian unity does not mean any sort of chauvinism but simply a defensive self-preservation in 
the face of various anti-Iranian ideologies like pan-Turkism. For example a look at history 
shows that the mingling of Turks and Iranians although had its positive aspect also presented its 
own hostilities. Indeed the population or land exchange of Iranic people in Turkey, Arran, 
Uzbekistan and Turkic people in Iran, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Armenia would bring 
stability for both civilizations (Iranian and Turks). 

Also we should not overlook some misconceptions due to history. For example some groups 
might bring the difference between the Pahlavids (who were Mazandarani Iranian) and Qazi 
Mohammad and try to make a big issue of this. We should note that neither Pahlavids 
represented the interest of all Iranians nor was Qazi Mohammad 100% independent of USSR. 
Also such discussions will not help any Iranians today. Those issues (which will not make the 
situation of Iranians any better or worst) need to be analyzed without bias and the actions of 
some politicians do not represent a whole group, but they should not hide the fact that if Iranians 
do not unite, they will all be losers. So all Iranian groups need to be understanding and strive for 

In one sentence, in order for Iranian peoples to prosper they need to have a unified voice and 
vision of a political union which respects diversity but also cherishes their shared Iranian 
heritage. Else having several weak Iranian countries or the erasing of Iranian peoples (as it 
continues today in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan) is to the detriment of all Iranian peoples.